Republicans around the country have organized â€œTea Party Ralliesâ€ to protest health care reform, among other things. They draw their inspiration from the Boston Tea Party, which helped spark the American Revolution. Protestors turn up in support wearing teabags; that is to say, they go â€œtea bagging.â€ Little do they realize that tea bagging is also a fraternity ritual, drawn from the similarity of a tea bag to a scrotum.Â So the sweet conservative ladies turn up at the rallies with their tea testicles hanging from their hats.
At these rallies the tea baggers listen to rants against the government. At a recent rally, they witnessed the Minority Leader of the House, John Boehner (Republican, Ohio), commit a big boner to go with the teabags. Waving his pocket copy of the Constitution in his right hand, he declared he would quote from it, and went on to orate, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!” Oopsie! Your ignorance is showing, sir! These words are not from the Constitution, but from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.
Boehnerâ€™s ignorance is a gaffe that a congressman should not make, let alone a potential leader of the house, but it was not much more than a gaffe. There are, however, errors around the Boston Tea Party, which are not gaffes, but which are consciously perpetuated. In a fifth grade classroom last week, I had to listen to ignorance among the patriotic hogwash that was being inculcated into their young minds. Not all of it was hogwash, of course, but not one item was free of it.
There is no doubt that the Boston Tea Party was a very important spark leading to the American Revolution, and that generally it was about taxation without representation. One reading told the fifth graders that King George removed all the taxes, except the one on tea as a lesson to the colonists who then had to pay high taxes on tea. This is bullshit. The Tea Act of 1773, passed by the British Parliament, removed the tax on tea, requiring only American duty to be paid on tea coming into the colonies. The effect was that the price of tea, legally entering the colonies, now cost half the original price. In fact, tea in the colonies was cheaper than tea in Britain, since the British still had to pay the tax.
The main importer of tea was the East India Company, and the Tea Act was seen as favoring the company, enabling them to undercut American importers and (above all) tea smugglers. And there is truth in that, and there was understandable resentment by leaders in the colonies. But it was NOT about high taxes. Significantly, among the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, the group who engineered the Tea Party, was the wealthy John Hancock, who made his pile from â€¦ smuggling tea.